Kathmandu is the capital and largest city of Nepal, with a population of around 1 million. Also known as the city of temples, the city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal. The valley was historically called the ``Nepal Mandala`` and has been the home of the Newar people, a cosmopolitan urban civilization in the Himalayan foothills. The city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal and hosts palaces, mansions and gardens of the Nepalese aristocracy. It has been home to the headquarters of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) since 1985. Today, it is the seat of government of the Nepalese republic, established in 2008, and is part of the Bagmati Province.<br />
Kathmandu is and has been for many years the center of Nepal's history, art, culture, and economy. It has a multi-ethnic population within a Hindu and Buddhist majority. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Tourism is an important part of the economy in the city. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top ten upcoming travel destinations in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia. The city is considered the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas and is home to several World Heritage Sites: the Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Pashupatinath. Kathmandu valley is growing at 4 percentages per year according to the World Bank in 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in South Asia, and the first region in Nepal to face the unprecedented challenges of rapid urbanization and modernization at a metropolitan scale.